Decolonizing the Study of Material Culture in Ancient Thrace and the Hellenistic Far East

The Balkan Heritage Foundation and the Department of Archaeology at New Bulgarian University organized the next of the BEMA Online Seminars in Balkan and Eastern Mediterranean Archaeology on Saturday, November 06, 2021. Guest lecturer Dr. Richard Wenghofer – Associate Professor of Classical Studies at Nipissing University (North Bay, Ontario, Canada) discussed the process of “Decolonizing the Study of Material Culture in Ancient Thrace and the Hellenistic Far East”.

Abstract: Archaeologists have long understood the methodological problems  inherent in conflating material culture with ethnic culture. Earlier generations of archaeologists and ancient historians have all too frequently read certain changes in material culture as an indication of the arrival of new ethnic groups bearing new cultural practices and forms. While this is no longer considered an acceptable use of material evidence, there is still a common tendency to view the ubiquity of Greek material culture in certain non-Greek archaeological contexts as part of the broader history of “Hellenization,” often with some rather infelicitous results. This presentation will examine how such a reading of the material culture in the Hellenistic Far East has led to some rather problematic conclusions regarding the geopolitical and cultural histories of Hellenistic Bactria, the Indo-Greek, and Indo-Scythian kingdoms, and will explore how some of the lessons learned in the context of the Hellenistic Far East might be applied to a more nuanced understanding of the cultural and geopolitical realities of Classical and Hellenistic Thrace.